“All this time, I thought I had finally awakened, achieved clarity, opened my eyes… and what an idiot I was. Thrust into a dream world, and when I awake once more, it’s only to find that I’m still sleeping…still dreaming.” As I talk, that vision/memory from the warehouse plays in my mind. The young Zeus and I… The feeling that came over me when I saw Atë afterward… My Kallis…
I hear my therapist Audrey tutting at me as she jots something down. I turn my head away and face the window.
“After all the work we’ve put in, you’re doubting yourself, avoiding your friends, because of one hazy daydream? You said it yourself. This followed a very literal out-of-body experience and a break with reality. Why let something that seems to be no more than a glorified after effect stand in the way of your newfound sense of stability, of happiness even, I would go so far to say?” she says finally, a smile in her voice though I refuse to look at her.
“Happiness?” I scoff.
“What was that you were going on about in our session before last? Those Lady Justice romantic musings? You sounded so hopeful at last.”
Yes, I remember a violent riot in the hills of Olympus park and the goddess who had orchestrated it. Just for little old me.
There, just past all the violence, rage, and bloodshed, was the woman herself: Justice, Order, Balance. Everything I was not and yet, even more than the melee, the battles both big and small, and the general confusion, she called to me. Something within her was radiating at me like a beacon.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear my dearest nephew Eros was buzzing around here somewhere. It felt as if he’d planted one of them damn arrows of his right in the black airless void where my heart should be. Gods damn! This feeling was both entirely new and overwhelmingly perfect.
I thought for a moment, truly taking in the context of not only that little soiree but what it meant that she was the host. While the destruction and discord were all very me, it was also very not her. I walked toward her, swiftly and silently, coming up beside her without a word.
“Well, what do we have here?” I purred. She didn’t turn or acknowledge me in any way. She was always stoic, but I sensed so much turmoil within her. “I’m almost full, and I just got here,” I said, patting my stomach.
She grunted at me. Well, I thought it was at me. She had only vaguely ticked her head in my direction for a fraction of a second. Where was the intimidating guardian of the rule of law? She was off more than I’d thought.
“An offering, of sorts,” she said dispassionately.
I stared at the side of her head for a mere moment before a wild laugh clawed its way from my gullet. My laughter mingled with the screams and howls of the crowd in front of us, becoming a symphony of strife and pain.
“Well,” I said, stifling the rest of my giggles as I brought my hand up to the back of my head with a stretch, “I like offerings.” I closed more soberly, my eyes narrowing.
I slinked around to her other side, eyeing her the entire time, almost trying to stare into her.
“Thing is, sweet Justice, I do not necessarily require my buffets to have violence or brutality.” I leaned into her neck, breathing heavily. “Kind of means this might’ve been more for you than me.”
Finally, she turned to face me directly, those argent eyes of hers playing nicely off mine of burning gold. For just a moment, a surge of energy seemed to jump back and forth between us. A charged moment where it seemed anything could happen, violence, love, or even violent love. It passed, and she turned back to the arduous fighting in front of us.
“Ah,” I laughed once more, “there, she’s realized it.” I sauntered close once more, breathing her in, the fact that epitome of order was so completely unhinged… it was a thing of beauty. “You do taste good, Dikê. Maybe we’ll count this as an offering after all,” I said with a quick intake of breath.
Without warning, she trailed her tongue across my lips, and finally, the spark she’d been stoking all night erupted into a fire within me. Just as I reached out to pull her in closer, she vanished in a burst of stars, leaving me unsatisfied.
Nicely done, Dikê. Who knew you could be so cruel? Virgo, my ass, you’ve definitely done this before.
So I was left alone with my present. Yet strangely, the blood and gore did not alleviate the new emptiness I felt at the loss of her.
That feeling was new. I liked it, but I wasn’t not sure I liked liking it, even needing it. I had a lot to think about. I drank in the strife like a fine wine. Sipping contentedly as I replayed what just happened in my mind. I knew it would be the first time of many. I imagined this is what others felt when they spoke of wanting more.
“Wanting more. That is what you said.” Audrey picks through her notes. “Now that is a very clear sign of looking forward, something you have struggled to do in the past. I think you should be wary of falling back on old habits.”
“So you think I should ignore this memory just to get laid? This memory that felt more real to me than so many others that have returned since I left the streets?”
“That’s not what I said. I merely think you shouldn’t let one supposed memory cast such a shadow on all the others. You should not ignore that sense of certainty you regained with them. Wasn’t that the point of this dream world you say you were trapped in?” Audrey asks, tapping her temple like she had a headache.
My mind goes back there. To the hopeful young senator whose world crashed around them. Audrey was there… Wasn’t she?
“Do you remember that world?” I ask suddenly, an unfamiliar tone of coyness in my voice.
“Why would I?” she stutters but regains her composure quickly.
“Nevermind, what I’m saying is it was that false reality that led me here. When my memories came back, this is one of the first that came to me. My supposed father Zeus, but from years before he married Hera, and we certainly weren’t acting like father and child. Not that that’s ever stopped some of this family before.” I crinkle up my nose.
“You need to pause and self-reflect. Are you self sabotaging?” she asks, pushing up her glasses. “Ask yourself, does this even make sense with who you know yourself to be? Take that famous apple of yours. You told me in a previous session you cultivated your apples of discord from a single fruit stolen from the Garden of the Hesperides, right? You said you did this purposefully as a way to act out when you felt neglected by your mother, Hera, as that tree was a wedding present to her. So how would that line up with your suspicion that you’re not even her child?”
My eyes widen, and I can sense a golden glow illuminating my irises. This seems to shake Audrey a bit.
“The Garden of the Hesperides… That’s in the Underworld. How would I even get down there? If I were Zeus and Hera’s child, it wouldn’t make sense, but the Underworld is like the Primordial’s hometown! Even if Nyx gave birth to me elsewhere, I could still get one of my siblings who were born down there or live/work there to let me in easy…” I shoot to my feet as I ramble, a new energy running through me.
Audrey, however, looked crestfallen, almost disappointed by this. As if she had been trying to pull a gotcha moment on me with the Hera story, and I surprised her by having a different takeaway.
“The Hesperides themselves are children of Nyx,” I continue. “Her closest attendants as Goddesses of Dusk. That last bright light before the sun sets. When the world is trying to cloud you in confusion and delusion, you need to cut through that fog with a ray of truth.” It was something another me had said once, to another Audrey. Her expression reflects this for a moment, a flash of recognition before she returns to the illusion of impartiality.
It’s too late though, the ray of truth has broken through the clouds.
I could still see them dancing without care beneath the golden apple tree. The dragon Ladon, the spawn of my dear friend Echidna, to watch over them. Both my lovely twilight sisters and the hundred heads of Ladon watched me with familiarity and not a small amount of affection.
I danced with them for a time, a maypole dance without ribbon, only our songs to wrap around the tree in celebration. Ladon hummed happily as he watched us, toxic exhaust puffing from his lips as he did so.
Then, quick as I could, I reached up and grasped an apple. Before they could react, my black wings unfurled, and I was in the air. They didn’t even seem that angry, as if they were expecting it. They gave a few token cries of admonishment before returning to the dance. Even Ladon didn’t raise his head, merely growling a bit before settling back down.
Like sisters always did, they knew the best way to get to me was no reaction at all. I scowled and retreated into the shadows, making my way back to the surface to plot again another day.
“Black wings… Olympian era gods aren’t really noted for wings. Most Primordials have a pair, though,” I mumble mostly to myself.
“Enyo, focus,” Audreys snaps, pulling me back to the present.
“What did you just call me?”
“Eris,” she says calmly, forthrightly, a sincere smile on her face.
That’s not what she said, though… Was it? Am I losing it again?
“Eris see? You’re getting yourself all worked up. Don’t you see that this is backsliding?” She cocks her head to the side with that maternal know-it-all smile. Has she always been this noxious?
“I’m gonna go.”
“We still have a good twenty minutes in our session!” she shrieks… is that desperation? Why is she this upset about this? Am I reading things wrong again? Is my tentative grip on societal expectation slipping away, and I’ve once more allowed myself to become off the mark? Turning social situations into veritable minefields with every foot in my mouth? I needed to go.
“I’ll call you, doc, and reschedule. Hell, charge me for the full time, whatever, I just gotta figure some stuff out. I gotta get out of my own head: that’s too dangerous a place for me right now.” I dematerialize before she can say another word.
Who the fuck am I?